A lot has been made of the Intelligence Quotient. Your IQ is one of many ways that we have our smarts tested through our years in school. But when was the last time you had your EQ tested?
Your EQ (Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence) is defined as your ability to recognize, understand, and use your own emotions to reduce stress, empathize with others, reduce conflict, and build relationships.
With a so much of our focus on IQ, there should be no surprise that our EQ is often left behind. We simply don’t put as much emphasis on it. However, as we know, emotional wellness is a big part of our overall wellbeing.
For those of us who could stand to do some development of our emotional wellness, here are 10 ways to improve your EQ.
You can’t make a map until you know where you’re starting. Take some time, meaning days or weeks, not minutes or hours, to assess where you’re at emotionally. This may mean “checking in” with yourself a couple times a day to see how you’re feeling. Write it down, if you want. After this process, you should have a good idea what you feel generally, whether there are certain actions or behaviors that push you to anger or sadness, and things that relieve your hurt or stress.
2. Recognize where your emotions live
It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a sign in our mind that lights up with “You’re happy” or “You’re angry” so that we have a clear understanding of what we’re feeling when we’re feeling it. Emotions can manifest themselves in strange ways, and we’ve all got to learn to interpret them. That knot that grows in your belly as you get closer to work during your commute? That’s probably anxiety. That little twinge you get behind your eyes when you hear your kids or nieces or nephews playing? That might be happiness and love. Emotions arise in all of our bodies differently, so take some time to pay attention to what you’re body is telling you.
3. Assess, don’t judge
In terms of where you’re starting on your path to better emotional intelligence – “it is what it is.” Don’t harangue yourself because you think you should be “better” than you are. Just accept the fact that this is where your path starts, and plan your strategy toward a higher EQ from there.
4. Take responsibility for your actions
This part can be hard for some people. When caught in bad behavior, we can get caught in a cycle of excuses like “Yeah, but he did XYZ,” or “Yeah, but she said XYZ.” Recognize that you can’t control how others behave, but you’re responsible for the things you say and do. There may be an apology in order for past behavior, and, regardless of how high your EQ is to start with, you’ll probably want to put a plan in place for how to do better next time.
5. Respond, don’t react
This is the plan for “next time.” Because we observed actions or behaviors that push us toward anger or sadness, we can anticipate how we will react, and because we can anticipate the reaction, we can “short circuit” the process and cut the reaction off before it starts. Plan ahead for how you think you should respond in the situations that set you off, and do your best to put your plan in place when the situation arises.
6. Practice positivity
Some of us get hung up on dwelling on the negatives in our lives. The things happening at work or at home may feel like they’re piling up, but odds are there are a lot of things that are going right for you, too. Take a little time to think about all the good you have going on, and you’ll feel your negative emotions drowned out, or at least diminished, by some of your newfound positivity.
7. Give yourself some options
A lot of anxiety and fear can come from the unknown. Do yourself a favor and alleviate that stress by thinking through the situations that are weighing on you, and playing out all the possible outcomes in your mind. Even if you’re not 100% accurate in your assessments, you’ll still have a better idea of what may happen, and how you can respond so you land on your feet. Suddenly the “unknown” is no longer unknown, and some of that anxiety will dissipate. If you find this process difficult, it may help to recruit a friend to help walk through all the possible outcomes.
8. Practice Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share in the feelings of others. It can be tough because it requires that we step outside ourselves, even momentarily, to gain the perspective of another person. That might be uncomfortable, or even undesirable, at times, especially in the case where you’re interacting with someone you find difficult to relate to, but in doing so, you’ll go a long way to understanding their behavior.
9. Cut them some slack
Try to go a step beyond simply recognizing the actions of others through their emotional lens. The truly emotionally intelligent understand that everyone is the hero in their own story, just trying to do what they think is right. By taking on that attitude, it’ll be easier to grant other people some leeway when they behave in a way that seems incorrect to you, and it’ll be easier for you to discuss the situation as a problem with their behavior, not with the person him or her self.
10. Practice being emotionally honest
This is a major milestone for the emotionally intelligent. Being emotionally honest with other people can feel like a huge risk because you inherently have to open yourself up to them, but it’s in this vulnerable space that true progress can be made, and until you’re emotionally honest, there will be impediments to creating the types of strong relationships that will help you improve your work and home life.
We hope these 10 tips will help you improve your emotional intelligence. We hope you’ll put them to use and have a very happy August!